Hasn’t been a Leafs article in a while, so I figured give us leaf-heads something to talk about to take out minds off of the sever lack of playoffs in the land (I only say that cause I can’t get Marlies games).
Though much has been made of the Leafs need for a true number 1 center (whatever that entails) the fact is that the Leafs seem to be doing fine offensively. Even with Bozak on the top line and Kulemin falling off the face of the earth (scoring-wise at least) Toronto managed 2.77 goals for per game, ranking them 10th overall in that category (ahead of all remaining playoff teams). The more startling stat is the goals against/game, which sat at 3.16. The only team with a worse record was Tampa Bay, who brilliantly braved the season with one of the original six goalies in net. Though any leafs fan knows that the leafs from October to January seemed to be a completely different team than the Leafs from February on, the fact remains that they had a hard time keeping goals out of the net.
There were some troubles on defense, of course. Liles falling to a lengthy injury and the inconsistent play of Luke Schenn and, at times, Dion Phaneuf, coupled with a lackluster performance from the bottom pairings didn’t help the situation. Jake Gardiner was a pleasant surprise, as the youngster emerged as a sold d-man with a flair for offense. Franson also had a decent season offensively, but overall the D-corps looked young and loose for major swaths of the season.
The defense, however, can only be handed so much of the blame. The season began with great optimism as de facto starter James Reimer was coming off an impressive run to close the 2010-2011 season, his first with the club. However, after a knock to the head by a certain overpaid Montreal forward took him out for an extended period it was up to Jonas Gustavsson to take up the reigns. Well, we all know how that story went. Though Gus did show signs of solid play for short stretches, the Leafs won in spite of him on most night that they did. In the end Gus finished the season with a 2.92 GAA and .902 save percentage, slightly bettering Reimer’s 3.10 and .900. Neither of these goalies were able to get it done and the Leafs eventually went into a tail spin that landed them a nice 5th overall pick. Though Reimer did play great before going down (going 4-0-1 to start the season, with a save percentage of .911 and a GAA of 2.6) he was never able to recover after suffering what the organization absolutely refused to call a concussion.
Clearly the leafs need to solidify the presence between the pipes. It seems likely that Gus, having never been able to secure the number 1 position for long in Toronto, will likely move on and sign somewhere else. Reimer showed his youth and though plagued by headaches and neck pain, could still benefit from a lighter work load while he matures. There is hope that he is the goalie of the future, but Burke would be foolish to bet the season on a 24 year old with only 71 pro games under his belt. The leafs do have some good young prospects in Jussi Rynas and Ben Scrivens, the latter showing his worth in this year’s AHL playoffs (7-1, .944, 1.61), and the musically inclined Make
in da park Owuya, but again, the playoff hungry Leafs need stability in net.
The answers seems to be to either sign a goalie out of free agency or pull the trigger on a trade. Here are the best looking options:
Here are the notable available free agents:
- Cristobal Huet
- Antero Niitymaki
- Chris Mason
- Thomas Vokoun
- Alex Auld
- Matin Biron
- Josh Harding
- Evgeni Nabokov
Though to be available through trade are:
- Miikka Kipursoff
- Jaroslav Halak
- Steve Mason
- Nikolai Khabibulin
- Roberto Luongo
- Niklas Backstrum
- Tim Thomas
Though this list is not exhaustive, it give a good idea of the options available to Burkie. So, time to discuss:
- Who do you think they should go for?
- Who should be signed or targeted and how much should this sign for or trade for?
- What should the term be for a FA signing (keeping in mind Burke’s assessment of Reimer as the future)?
- And how do you play whoever they bring in (how many games will Reimer play)?